Dual Government in Bengal (1765-1772)

Dual Government in Bengal


In 1765, the Company got the rights of the Diwan, viz., the rights to collect revenue and dispensation of civil justice for Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa from the Mughal emperor. The Nawab of Bengal, however, retained the rights of the Nizamat, viz., the rights to maintain peace and order, defend the frontiers against foreign aggression, and dispensation of criminal justice. Thus, the ruling authority of Bengal was divided into two heads. The one head was given under the charge of the Nawab and the other, under the charge of the Company. Because of this division of authority, the rule in Bengal between the period 1765-1772 has been called the “Dual Government”. The “Dual Government” was the result of the Company’s refusal to take the direct responsibility of administering Bengal.

While the Company desired to draw maximum advantages to itself by keeping the finances of Bengal under its own control, it refused to accept any responsibility regarding the governance of Bengal. It became very much clear when, in practice, the Company refused to take direct responsibility on its shoulders regarding even the Diwani.

Robert Clive appointed two naib (deputy) Diwans on behalf of the Company, namely Raja Shitab Ray for Bihar and Muhammad Raza Khan for Bengal. The Company did nothing more than this. It was not their concern as to how that revenue was to be collected and what would be its impact on the condition of the common people of Bengal. Besides, as the Nawab was a minor (son of Mir Jafar Najum-Ud-Daula), the Company appointed Md. Raza Khan as the naib Nizam as well. Therefore, the responsibility of governing Bengal, in fact, passed into the hands of Md. Raza Khan who was a servant of the Company both as naib Nizam and naib Diwan. The Company could press this servant into action according to its own desire and, yet, was free from any responsibility.

Failure of Dual Government

The “Dual Government” failed completely. During its period the abuses of private trade by the servants of the Company reached a climax.

The privilege of dastaks was so misused that the Indian merchants failed to compete with the English and were completely ruined. Indian industries were also ruined. The Company used its political power to ruin the silk industry in Bengal. The cotton cloth industry which was the most developed one in Bengal was also ruined.

The representatives of the Company arbitrarily decided the quality of the cloth, its quantity of production, and its price much against the interest of the artisans. If any artisan or worker protested, he was severely punished or tortured. Therefore, many of them changed their profession and many others left Bengal. Agriculture was also destroyed because of the excesses of the company. The land was assigned to the highest bidder every year for the collection of revenue. These bidders or the farmers of taxes collected maximum revenue from the farmers to draw maximum gain for themselves within a year. The Company increased its demand every year from the contractors. The contractors, in turn, increased their demand from the farmers while they were in no way interested in increasing the production. Therefore, the peasants were the worst sufferers and many among them left their lands and became decoits and robbers.

Ultimately, the income of the Company also suffered. It could get neither good revenue nor enjoy better trade. Therefore, it felt the necessity of bringing some reforms. In 1769, the Company divided Bengal into thirty districts and appointed one English Supervisor in each district. But the measure yielded no fruitful result. The supervisors were appointed with the sole purpose of getting maximum revenues for the Company. They were not required to look after the welfare of the peasantry, to provide justice to them, to help them to increase production, or even to supervise the working of Indian revenue collectors. Besides, the supervisors were permitted to engage in private trade which became their primary concern. Therefore, the experiment of appointing supervisors failed miserably. In the same way, the experiment of appointing revenue councils in 1770 also came to nought.

Conclusion of Dual Government

Thus, the Dual Government in Bengal failed miserably. It destroyed the trade, industry, and agriculture of Bengal. In 1770, Bengal suffered from severe famine and nearly one-third population of Bengal fell victim to its ravages. Though, of course, it was primarily because of the failure of rains, there is no doubt that the sufferings of the people had increased manifold because of the misgovernance of Bengal under the system of “Dual Government”. The Company also did not remain unaffected by the evils of its administration. Its income both from revenue and trade suffered. The practice of private trade which remained the primary concern of its servants also proved disastrous to the fortunes of the Company. Thus, the Dual Government in Bengal failed ignominiously.

Abolition of Dual Government

When Warren Hastings came to India in 1772 as the Governor-General of the Company he came with specific orders from the Directors to abolish the Dual Government.

He came to India with clear instructions by the Court of Directors that the naib (deputy) Diwans, Muhammad Reza Khan, and Raja Shitab Ray, were to be removed from their offices and placed under trial and, henceforth, the Company had to stand forth as the Diwan. Hastings did the same soon after his arrival in India.

Hastings took up the responsibility of civil justice also in the hands of the Company along with the direct charge of Diwani (the right of collecting the revenues). He also, realized that it was not desirable to keep the rights of Diwani and Nizamat (right of defence, peace, and other and criminal justice) in separate hands. Therefore, he took away the right of Nizamat also from the hands of the Nawab. The Nawab of Bengal was granted a pension of rupees sixteen lacs annually for his personal expenses. Thus, the Dual Government in Bengal was abolished and the Company became the de jure as well as the de facto ruler of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa.

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